“No,” the constable replied thoughtfully. “I’m not sure our people will take this matter up; anyway, it looks as if we could only fix it on the Indians. This is what comes of you folks fooling things, instead of leaving them to us.”
“The police certainly like a conviction,” rejoined the teamster, grinning. “They feel real bad when the court lets a fellow off; seem to think that’s their business. Guess it’s why a few of their prisoners escape.”
Flett ignored this, and the teamster turned to George.
“I’ll tell you what once happened to me. I was working for a blamed hard boss, and it doesn’t matter why I quit without getting my wages out of him, but he wasn’t feeling good when I lit out behind a freight-car. By bad luck, there was a trooper handy when a train-hand found me at a lonely side-track. Well, that policeman didn’t know what to do with me. It was quite a way to the nearest guard-room; they don’t get medals for corraling a man who’s only stolen a ride, and he had to watch out for some cattle rustlers; so wherever he went I had to go along with him. We got quite friendly, and one night he said to me, ’There’s a freight that stops here nearly due. I’ll go to sleep while you get out on her.’”
The teamster paused and added with a laugh:
“That’s what I did, and I’d be mighty glad to set the drinks up if I ever meet that man off duty. We’d both have a full-size jag on before we quit.”
“And you’re one of the fellows who’re running Hardie’s temperance campaign!” Flett said dryly.
Flett left the team at George’s homestead. Bidding him take good care of it, and borrowing a fresh team, he drove away with the wagon. When he reached Sage Butte it was getting dusk. He hitched the horses outside of the better of the two hotels and entered in search of food, as he had still a long ride before him. Supper had long been finished, and Flett was kept waiting for some time, but he now and then glanced at the wagon. It was dark when he drove away, after seeing that the case lay where he had left it, and he had reached his post before he made a startling discovery. When he carried the case into the lamplight, it looked smaller, and on hastily opening it he found it was filled with soil!
He sat down and thought; though on the surface the matter was clear—he had been cleverly outwitted by somebody who had exchanged the case while he got his meal. This, as he reflected, was not the kind of thing for which a constable got promoted; but there were other points that required attention. The substitution had not been effected by anybody connected with the Queen’s; it was, he suspected, the work of some of the frequenters of the Sachem; and he and his superiors had to contend with a well-organized gang. News of what had happened in the bluff had obviously been transmitted to the settlement while he had rested at Lansing’s homestead. He had, however, made a long journey, and as he would have to ride on and report the matter to his sergeant in the morning, he went to sleep.